I love pasta. Yes, yes I do. I also think you can enjoy it as part of a healthy diet and the proof is in the positive outcomes seen in a Mediterranean diet. However, as a dietitian I also recognize the average American consumes far too many carbohydrates, which can set you up for weight gain and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Obviously you have to strike the right balance when it comes to carbohydrate intake.
I wrote a blog post previously about making pasta healthier by eating like an Italian, part 1 of this small series. You can go even further than those Italian principles to make your meal healthier with these additional strategies.
1. Add protein. Protein can help provide more volume to a meal so you don’t depend on a huge bowl of pasta to fill you up. It also helps with satiety and providing different textures to help create a satisfying meal. You can add nuts, soy products like tempeh, seafood or animal protein to the mix.
2. A little fat. Fats like olive oil, olives, coconut, nuts or avocado can help slow down blood sugar spikes that occur when eating carbohydrates. For the most part, adding fat turns a high glycemic meal into a lower glycemic meal. Dietary fats also help you to feel more satisfied and full with a smaller portion of food.
3. Add vegetables, lots of vegetables. While vegetables are also carbohydrates, they only provide about 5 grams per serving so not nearly as much as starchy carbohydrates like pasta. By adding vegetables you can greatly increase the volume of the meal so you can consume a smaller portion of pasta. Vegetables also provide fiber, which can also decrease blood sugar spikes making your meal lower on the glycemic scale.
Pasta can easily be a slippery slope especially if it’s something you enjoy eating often. Avoid/limit eating a large serving of pasta with sauce like seen here. This is where pasta turns into a high glycemic meal:
Instead use the principles of eating pasta like an Italian and the ones listed above so you can enjoy pasta in a healthier way. Looking at the example below, the combination of seafood and vegetables adds protein, fat and fiber. It also provides volume so you’re eating far less pasta:
Ready? Give these recipes a try:
Meri Raffetto is the founder of Real Living Nutrition, triplet mom and author of the Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies and coauthor of the Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies, and Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies.